While acknowledging that the American dream does have a bright side, the introduction explains why we can learn more by examining the portrayal of its dark side in popular culture. Works like the Godfather films and Breaking Bad reveal the inner contradictions and tragic tensions in the American dream. The introduction offers an overview of the book and sketches the ways the chapters build on each other, developing a set of common themes, such as self-invention and imposture. All the works point to the western frontier as the mythical space for American self-fulfillment. The chapter discusses the Western as the archetypal American genre and traces the ways it migrates to other genres, such as science fiction and the gangster story. All these genres offer alternatives to the everyday middle-class world that popular culture normally mirrors, and thereby they raise questions about a narrowly middle-class conception of the American dream.
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